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Texas Baseball Begins Series vs Cal at 6 PM on the Longhorn Network

The California Golden Bears come to town looking for revenge for being left out of the 2005 Rose Bowl.

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Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

'Cause you're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in then you're out
You're up then you're down
You're wrong when it's right

Famed American lyricist Katy Perry summed up the start of the 2016 Texas baseball season in her popular song "Hot 'n Cold". It is only 8 games but Texas has had some really good and some really ugly moments.

The Horns beat Stanford convincingly on Friday and Saturday and have shown an ability to score runs most of the time. Kyle Johnston and Ty Culbreth have been as-advertised as your Friday/Saturday starter and Chase Shugart's freshman career could not be off to a better start.

At the same time, there have been a lot of things to be worried about. Sunday's drubbing by Stanford is the only time in 8 games that Texas has looked really bad. The bullpen hasn't been perfect, but that's to be expected with so many young arms. The Horns are striking out a ton, walking less than less year (so far) and walking more opposing hitters (so far). In addition Patrick Mathis, Tyler Rand and Josh Sawyer are all contributors with various degrees of injury.

In tracking the "advanced stats" we see that Texas is hitting about the same as 2015 but pitching much better overall other than the increase in walks.

Batting Average ERA WHIP OPS BB/9 K/9 Hitter K/9
2016 Total .267 2.81 1.163 .740 4.05 7.43 8.21
Change from 2015 +3% -14.1% -9% -3.2% +26.4% +16.2% +12.4%

#10 Cal comes to town for a four game series starting tonight. These two teams split four games in 2014 with Texas dropping two ugly contests before rallying on Saturday and Sunday. The Golden Bears dropped a midweek game to Michigan 5-0 on Monday dropping their record to 5-3 overall (just like Texas!). Cal previously dropped 2 of 3 on the road against Duke (both via the walk off) before sweeping an overmatched Purdue squad.

Cal and Texas have been basically mirror images so far in 2016. The Golden Bears are hitting .279 with 6 home runs (all against Purdue). The Golden Bears have gotten really good starts from Friday pitcher Daulton Jefferies who has 16 strikeouts, just 3 walks, a .178 opponent batting average and no earned runs in 12 innings pitched. Saturday starter Ryan Mason hasn't been as dominant but he has been quite good through two starts, and Sunday starter Matt Ladrech had a rough start against Duke and a good one against Purdue. Cal features 7 relievers that have thrown multiple innings which will be useful in a four game series. Thursday will see Jeff Bain start. Bain is a sophomore who made 8 starts in 2015 but has only two relief appearances so far in 2016.

Offensively, the Golden Bears have been way more stable in terms of roster construction than Texas. Only 9 Cal hitters have taken 8 or more at bats with those 9 hitters accounting for 94% of at bats so far this year. Texas, by contrast, has had 14 players take 8 or more ABs with the top 9 taking only 80% of available ABs.

Sophomore catcher Brett Cumberland (.333 BA, 5 extra base hits, 2 HR) is the most feared Cal hitter though the Golden Bears have 7 regulars hitting better than .260 and more doubles (25) than Texas has extra base hits (21).

A split of this series would be the minimum necessary achievement with a series victory or sweep serving as lagniappe. The early part of the Texas schedule is absolutely brutal. The Horns will play 18 of their first 24 games (including 14 of the next 16) against a team currently ranked in the top 30 by Collegiate Baseball. The Horns will then not have to play a currently ranked team for the rest of the season. It's a brutal start but Texas has the opportunity to find out what it's made of right off the bat.

THU 6 PM: UT RHP Nolan Kingham (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Cal RHP Jeff Bain (0-2, 3.38 ERA)
FRI 6 PM: UT RHP Kyle Johnston (1-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. Cal RHP Daulton Jefferies (2-0, 0.00 ERA)
SAT 2 PM: UT LHP Ty Culbreth (2-0, 0.69 ERA) vs. Cal RHP Ryan Mason (1-0, 2.77 ERA)
SUN Noon: UT RHP Connor Mayes (0-1, 3.38) vs. Cal LHP Matt Ladrech (1-0, 5.00 ERA)

All four games will be available on the Longhorn Network.